Thursday, 11 April 2013
265. Pied Piper Porky (1939)
Release date: November 4, 1939.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig), Danny Webb (Mouse -- and Cat?).
Animation: John Carey and Dave Hoffman.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky plays a Pied Piper, and has managed to clear all the rats out of town. All but one, a Rochester caricature, whom Porky fails to clear out.
The title card disclaimer fades out where we find a horizontal pan going right; as our story takes place in Medieval times in the 'Ye town of Hamelin' in the lower part of Saxony, Germany--though is notorious for the folk-tale, of course, the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The backgrounds, probably by Dick Thomas, look very stylised and modern - and a rich feel for 14th century Germany. Among the crowds in the streets; we truck in where a local newspaper screams with the headline: PIED PIPER RIDS TOWN of RATS! which is famous, according to folklore. The newspaper pans down to a caption reading: Piper's Feat Gives Mayor a Big Kick.
He then jams with his flute in this song sequence, as the off-screen chorus continue singing. Anyone happen to know the name of the song being sung by the off-screen chorus. I just know its going to be a popular song with substitute lyrics.
After the song is over, Porky hears the sound of an off-screen voice: 'That's good sonny, but that ain't the way I heard it!'. We pan to the right and find Porky hasn't got rid of one particular mouse who is a caricature of Eddie Anderson, and his voiced by Danny Webb. The audience, off-screen, screech 'A rat! A rat!' - a silly little Avery-esque gag which you would hear at pantomimes. Porky walks over to the mouse with vengeance: 'Y-You can't get away with that!'. Afterwards; the mouse jumps off the figurine and runs away from Pied Piper Porky. He nibbles himself a mousehole and blows a silly face towards Porky with a 'You can't catch me' attitude.
The black Rochester mouse then walks over, hypnotised through the pipe's music. After walking a few paces, he then stops and turns to the audience and remarks: 'If you think I'm going in there, you're crazy'.
I wonder whether that line is a radio reference or some sort...as it was used in a few more Warner cartoons like Wacky Wildlife. After the mouse dances, he jumps up on top of Porky's chest, holding onto his flute. He comments, holding onto it, 'This thing's no good, boss. Blow a hole!'. He snaps the flute in hat, gives the broken half to Porky, then he bounces off his nose and plays the pipe to Umbrella Man.
Another wit won by the black mouse as he enters back inside his hole. Porky looks at his broken pipe, and this time he gives it up as he slams it to the ground. He walks over, and (appears to be improvised by animation) he uses a box for Plan B.
He mutters, as he opens the box, 'That rat...can't do that to me'. The box already reads it's an old-fashioned mouse-trap. What makes it 'old-fashioned' is be pulls out a cat to help catch the mouse.
He orders the cat: 'Go get 'em--slapsy catsy!'. He sniffs inside the mousehole and then starts snarling. The cat impersonates John L. Sullivan with his posing, and breaks the forth wall by showing its fists. After the mouse steps out of the hole: some amusing personality animation appears where the cat slowly stops showing his fists. Much to Clampett's and Warners personal charm, the cat screams like a girl and he jumps out of the scene. The cat reacts frighteningly and lifting his blouse, afraid of the mouse (rhyming not intended). Afterwards, there's a close-up shot where he speaks in a Mexican accent: 'Me, a pussy cat, afraid of a teeny, weeny mouse'. He chortles to himself, and remarks 'So they're scary', admitting he is scared.
Porky ends up being caught into a bowl of the cat's heads and the mouse fighting each other with that cartoony, early Clampett-esque effect. The fighting stops as they crash to a wall.
The chase sequence; and I like how Clampett arranged for the fighting and the background is displayed in panorama. The black mouse ends up cornered...but finds a way to outwit the cat by playing 'noughts and crosses'. The mouse draws up the game on the wall with a pencil; where the mouse uses noughts, and the cat uses crosses for the game.
The mouse wins as he manages to use the noughts diagonally. The Rochester-esque mouse comments: 'Hot dog, I win!'. He beeps the cat's nose and scrams. I quite like the characteristics of the cat in that cycle which combines with personality asides. The cat slams into a wall, as the mouse just makes it inside the mousehole. Well, of course, Bill Hanna would time that gag in Tom & Jerry (after this cartoon of course) but, even he would have at the unfunny timing there: Gee, I can sure think of an earlier cartoon where Clampett's timing on a similar gag was very funny..(Me thinking Rover's Rival).
Porky arrives at the spot on time, to save the cat's life. As the '9' ghost is about to drift away: Porky forces the ghost right back into the cat's soul. Why not, its a cartoon. He grabs out a bottle to revive the cat by giving him some catnip dynamite.
He pulls out the cork of the remedy bottle and pours it down his throat. There is some really 'fluid' animation where the liquid is seen noticeable around the cat's body and then the cat wakes up completely alert.
The '9' cat then warns the other lives through a trumpet call and they all dive down the cat's body; and even making him much more muscular. The cat then makes a really speedy start as he uses his legs to help increase his speed; and you can also hear the notorious sound effect...later to be used for the Tasmanian Devil. Porky watches the scene with hope the mouse will be completely ridded off. However, much to his surprise, the mouse walks out---completely indestructible and walks out as the cat is seen as the mouse's new fur coat'. A really dark gag ending, I'd say, and kind of disturbing..but its also amusing as Clampett has (in my opinion) created a funny character whose height can outnumber his enemies. The mouse comments with his new, dandy coat until he walks out posing.
True, Porky doesn't make much of a contribution and it may not present too much of Clampett's own wackiness, but the one character who steals the whole cartoon, is the mouse. The mouse really does resemble the wits of the character personality that the Warners guys were really hilarious at developing. I particularly like the mouse as he is a very witty little mouse, and also no matter how tiny he is...he has the knack of outsmarting all his enemies who are much more larger. The mouse really does have a lot of wackiness and charm which shows that Clampett, at least, put in a tad more effort than his other cartoons. While earlier he made really bland and horrible characters such as the ghost in Jeepers Creepers or Pinky in Porky's Picnic--yeah, I believe he made a hell of a mouse. You could say the cartoon would be an early idea for crafty characters like Bugs Bunny or Tweety; and I can really see the mouse most likely had an impact on the audience.